April 25, 2019 | 56° F

EDITORIAL: Rutgers finds sanctuary in ‘safe havens’

Barchi’s compromise in name could save university funding


The loudest rallying cry against the deportation of undocumented immigrants comes from university students who condemn the threats of President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration. Thousands of students from universities throughout the nation were steadfast in organizing to call for policies to protect themselves and their peers, as well as denouncing the president-elect through protests and walkouts, which quickly proceeded after the dismaying news of the November elections.

The aim of such protests was to push universities into claiming an explicit stance that would protect students from unorthodox methods of deportation — a dismal possibility emerging from the unpredictability of Trump and his cabinet members. And in fomenting these protests, they’ve promulgated a new term that’s become part of national political discourse: The "sanctuary campus."

Rutgers students took part in the nationwide "sanctuary campus" protests on Nov. 16, with hundreds of students flooding the New Brunswick streets. Ever since then in the eyes of protestors, the University has failed to take on a reconciliatory stance with their demands. The second part of the protest took part earlier this week on Dec. 6 during a Board of Governors meeting, during which University President Robert L. Barchi refused to call Rutgers a "sanctuary campus," which has no legal definition, and would rather call the university a "safe haven." Barchi announced that Rutgers will “protect student confidentiality and will not share private information unless required by law, court order or subpoena.” He also added that the University will also support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the in-state tuition it provides to undocumented immigrants in New Jersey.

Barchi enumerated proper protocols to protect students, but it seems like this is what’s already happening. Student information should be protected and DACA should be supported, among other common-sense actions. In an article about the meeting published by The Daily Targum, Rutgers—Newark Center for Law and Justice student Thais Marques said, “I commend the University for doing what they have always done, which President Barchi said is a safe haven. What he calls a safe haven is already the status quo of the University. If Rutgers was a sanctuary, we wouldn’t be (protesting).”

However, Barchi may really be taking a strategic stance in joining universities that do not call themselves “sanctuary campuses,” such as all the Ivy Leagues except for the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the University of Connecticut, and the University of Illinois among many others. The shifty definition could be a cause of concern when some universities claim they will protect students despite legal demands and others claim they will protect students until they must comply with the legal demands (Rutgers falls into the latter). In every way but the name, Rutgers is essentially a sanctuary campus.

Private universities could easily call themselves sanctuary campuses because they’re not reliant on state funding or federal funding, but opponents of the term sanctuary campus could then easily target public universities such as ours. As a public university, Rutgers is susceptible to the attacks on resources that a research institution requires to function — funding from the National Science Foundation, Pell Grants, the Department of Defense and an abundance of other government resources that could be closed off. This attack is happening in Texas as Gov. Gregg Abbott (R-Tex.) tweeted that he would cut off funding for any state campus that calls itself a sanctuary campus. Now that Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) is nearing the end of his term, New Jersey doesn’t yet know what kind of politician it’s going to be governed by in after 2018.

Above all, the declaration of a university as a “sanctuary campus” is a symbolic gesture that espouses a powerful message: The university sides with its students, regardless of his or her immigration status. Rutgers is a sanctuary campus in everything but the name and this is a compromise it has to make considering the vulnerability of our institution.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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